4th May 2020
Proposals to extend youth supports to young adults aged up to 24, place a positive duty on State agencies to work together, and a clear and consistent focus on reaching hard-to-reach groups are among a number of evidence-informed progressive elements included in the Draft Youth Justice Strategy published by Minister of State David Stanton T.D today (01.05.2020) according to the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT). IPRT further welcomes that wide-ranging consultations have informed the development of the draft strategy, led by an Expert Steering Group, and the launch of a public consultation phase today.
Responding to proposals to extend supports to young people up to age 24, which are in line with international evidence and best practice, IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said:
“International evidence shows that young adults are more amenable to rehabilitation than older adults, as the brain and maturity continue to develop into a persons’ mid-twenties. The right interventions at this age support desistance but the wrong interventions can deepen offending behaviour. A distinct approach that responds to the special circumstances of young people transitioning into adulthood will promote better outcomes and reduce crime. Investment in these approaches will reap dividends for all society in the long-term. In this respect, we particularly welcome consideration of suitable diversion programmes for 18-24 year olds.”
Responding to proposals to place a positive duty on agencies to work together Ms. Ní Chinnéide continued:
“Youth justice is more than responding to children and young people who have committed an offence, it is about effective measures to prevent children and young people from becoming involved in crime in the first place. This demands a whole-of-government approach.
“Although a relatively small number of children and young people come into contact with the criminal justice system, common characteristics include socioeconomic disadvantage and family breakdown. A response which is primarily justice-driven will not address these underlying factors. Placing a positive duty on departments and State agencies to work together will go a long way towards tackling the root causes of crime, supporting children and young people, and ultimately making communities safer. This echoes approaches in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland.”
The Draft Strategy has a welcome emphasis on supporting the hardest to reach children and the prioritisation of research and initiatives on children disproportionately represented in the youth justice system, including children in care, children with neuro-disabilities, and ethnic minority children. Ms. Ní Chinnéide continued:
“Hard to reach groups and those disproportionately represented in the youth justice system are often escalated through the system because of the inflexibility of alternative interventions to deal with their specific circumstances. While we welcome a range of proposals to better respond to these groups, we particularly welcome the proposed extension and adaption of the Bail Supervision Scheme to address individual needs. This will help ensure that the use of detention as a measure of last resort continues at the core of the youth justice system.”
The proposed establishment of a National Oversight Group to monitor the implementation of the Strategy and to develop a research-based facility will be a key driver in supporting evidence-led policy.
IPRT will carefully review and further analyse the Draft Strategy, with a view to making an evidence-informed submission to the Minister. It is important that the consultation process gathers input from all communities, including those disproportionately represented in the youth justice system, and in particular young people themselves.
For further comment, please contact Fíona at: 087 181 2990
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort. See www.iprt.ie
The Draft Strategy and public consultation are part of a wider consultation process to inform the development of a new Youth Justice Strategy to cover the period up to 2026. More information on the Department of Justice website: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Youth_Justice_Strategy_Public_Consultation
Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.